Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The people you meet and a day in the life...

Please pray for the older American lady I met today in the atrium of the Vatican Basilica. She had lost her group; was having an anxiety attack in front of an Italian Vatican employee; did not know the name or location of her group, driver or hotel and was in way over her head.

Later, some proud and sunburnt bikers glided into the piazza San Pietro celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. In just under four weeks they as a couple rode their bikes from Holland to Rome and had a great time. God bless them. Last July I met in the same piazza another couple from Holland who had done the same.

Then at Stazione Roma San Pietro I got chatting with two Mormon missioners. Poor kids, they never know anything. Yes, they've had more catechesis than most Catholics, but still know very little - and as Americans know nothing of history.

Today it was an honor to be in the Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel) not just once, but twice. The great honor of my life these recent years has been to live in the Holy City and to enter the Sistine Chapel often and to worship regularly in the hallowed Usus Antiquior. All glory and honor to the Lord ( = can I get an Amen)!

As a tour guide one meets Americans from all over the world and their ignorance is revealed when they ask the guide odd questions. Priests get the same, too. Such a pity our parochial and public schools have failed our people. Americans by and large know nothing of archeology, art history, architecture, history in general, religion, etc. Proof? Ask any Rome tour guide. Our schools went with math and science and reading comp and ignored the rest.

Best clients? The kids. Why? You can see how it's already too late with the adults - the kids are fine, but the adults are already stuck with hard and stony hearts.

Absolute best clients? High school kids. Why? High school is the age to make and keep them Catholic. They listen and believe. At that age it's not yet too late. Somebody just has to be able to explain it to them. We need youthful teachers who can teach and inspire.

Worst kids? College kids. They are rude, bored and already lost. Thinking not of the tour, but of booze and finding a date (getting "drunk" and getting "laid"). I've had it with all of them. Worst group I had was from Notre Dame.

Kids with the best catechesis? Black kids. I've seen it and said it a thousand times: black America and southern blacks know the Gospel and they know it better than white kids and this is a fact. They know the Bible, Genesis, Revelation and Jesus and they are quick on their toes and not afraid to speak and answer about Jesus.

How much do American Catholics know about anything Catholic? Nothing or just about. A lot of it is misunderstanding or misconceptions or pieces of the story. Often a bit of a blur. They often seem really unsure of just about everything.

The Vatican Museums tour is for most kids (and adults!) a first introduction to Christianity and this is the truth. The good guide really gets 'em while explaining the Sistine Chapel - you get them with creation and then you see how they become thunderstruck which sometimes leads to them having a first "spiritual" experience before your eyes a little later in the tour. Sometimes they weep. Sometimes it hurts. Conversion is pain.

Rain Your fire upon the nations, Holy Ghost!


Caitlin said...

Though I'm not the biggest fan of Notre Dame, I do feel some responsibility to state publicly that many of them are wonderful people;)

Philomena said...

I will agree that Americans don't know anything about history, or geography... But I have heard tour guides in Rome that had a revisionist story of Rome, more than once.

I have also been lost in Rome at night. I was supposed to meet our bus after a Mass at St Peter's but I had forgotten to ask where the bus was. I finally found a priest, told him I was lost (he didn't know me, and I didn't know him) but he had to give a phone call first. But after the phone call, he walked away from me... I did not dare running after him! He was probably afraid of me...:)). So here I was in Rome at 10:30pm wondering the streets when I finally met some people from our group.
Too bad, I wish I had been lost in Rome for ever... Such a nice place.

AJS said...

Beauty is a reflection of Truth. One of my neighbors, a Presbyterian, visited Rome a few years ago and was telling me about what she had seen at the Vatican. She was impressed with the beauty of it all, but at the end of her story she asked whether it wouldn't have been better for all the money to have been donated to the poor.

This was a long time ago and I didn't have an answer for her then. Now, having had the blessed experience of living in Rome for three months myself, I could answer that Beauty is more important than bread. You can feed a person's body for a day or you can feed the souls of generations for all time.

Thanks for this blog, JP, every post confirms my desire to return to Roma Felix.

Unknown said...

wonderful post.
I just graduated from high school and am definitely coming to Rome some day, maybe during one of my summers because Thomas Aquinas doesn't have a Rome program unfortunately. Your blog is very interesting, informative, and inspirational Please keep it up.

In the choir loft said...

Sadly, in international testing Americans always seem to come in last place in just about everything, even math and sciences. Sure there are exceptions, but generally our schools teach (babysit) "self-esteem" and "feel good" themed subjects. Americans come in first though in having high self-esteem. We are abysmally ignorant in many areas (history and English, especially but others too) and seem to flaunt it because of our individualistic temperament. We don't realize how ignorant we appear. Americans do have a good point in that we tend to help people who are down on their luck. Our schools are nothing more than leftist propaganda camps.

I pray we, the USA educational system, sees the light of truth!

a thorn in the pew said...

What a wonderful post! I cried at the Vatican. I didn't want to leave and wanted time to stop. I will pray for your work and that you can touch hearts and be that first seed. God bless.

Terry Nelson said...

You are a wonderful man. You must touch many hearts. God bless.

Unknown said...

My first visit to Rome was nearly forty years ago. I still recall the excellent guide who took me and others around the vatican Gardens and the Basilica. She was a German lady called Anna who was employed by the Vatican Tourist Office. Her knowledge was great and her enthusiasm was infectious as well as profound. She obviously loved the Vatican and all that it stood for. She touched all of us and I remember that most people in the group gave her a round of applause at the end of the tour and were genuinely grateful to her for an enriching experience. Can I wish you every success in your similar venture.